The city of Charleston is romantic times 10. Make that times 100. Simply follow the blue-stone sidewalk, or walk under a gaslight lamp, or through an iron gate that’s all tangled in sweet-smelling jasmine, and you’ll find the tucked-away dining room you’ve been looking for. You really can’t miss when it comes to romantic scenery in this seaside town. Especially if you’re the least bit in love, just getting to the doorways of restaurants in Charleston can be magical. Of course, there’s also the food itself—Lowcountry spicy, fresh, rich, and decadent. We love a long evening here of courses and conversation, cocktails or wine (or both). Then when the delicious dinner is over at the McCrady’s and Chez Nous’s of the city, you’re back outside again on Charleston’s historic streets, maybe holding hands or stealing a kiss while the palmetto trees make spiked moon shadows on the sidewalk.
It’s so cool to walk in from busy Market Street to the elegance of Peninsula Grill’s plush dining room. This is a classic of the city, with portrait paintings and velvet on the walls. Servers slip past to present Chef Graham Dailey’s savory steak au poivre or Carolina game hen, and fill your glass, again.
There’s something urban, international and comfortably familiar about this well-loved hotel restaurant, particularly when host Mickey Bakst makes his warm welcome—he’s remarkable about remembering people. I love the live jazz, upholstered chairs and comfy banquettes. Meanwhile, Alabama-born chef Michelle Weaver’s southern menu is scrumptious.
Please, please meet me here, anytime. Owners Fanny (a French beauty) and Patrick Panella (tall and handsome) already had the city’s favorite wine bar, Bin 152, and we all couldn’t wait for Chez Nous to open. It’s just six menu items a day—sauced, balanced and delicious, in a tiny 1800s Charleston single-house.
Another clandestine location, you’ll get to the entrance along a narrow, one-block street. Then enter a cozy room with a small, well-worn bar, the clink of glasses, and typically lots of laughter and conversation. Tastes of wine, olive oil, pasta, and osso bucco begin, and you’re intoxicated with Italy, romance, and Charleston.
At McCrady’s, you’re sitting in one of the most historic dining rooms in the city—maybe near the fireplace with a sophisticated absinthe cocktail. Ingredients from the South are plated like art, and they make it easy to try a taste of everything with Chef Sean Brock’s four-course tasting menu (say yes).